The Texas General Store might sound like a place you could pick up groceries or other odds and ends. But walk into one of the locations, Mineral Wells or Grapevine, and you’ll find a plethora of Texas tchotchkes. The stores specialize in Texas-themed gifts, souvenirs, home décor, apparel, and locally-sourced products. Some of the bestselling items include seasonings, barbecue and hot sauce, peanut butter, and Texas T-shirts. Jessica Cruz, the owner of Texas General Store, summarizes her shop in just a few words: “Texas-themed, Texas-sized, Texas-made, Texas sense of humor.”
Texas General Store
406 S. Main St. Grapevine, TX 76051
107 N. Oak St., Ste. 101 Mineral Wells, TX 76067
“Texas is the basis of our story,” she says. “It grounds us back to the purpose of our store and what we choose to sell. Texas is so iconic.”
Lifelong Texans, such as myself, can attest to the intense pride of being from the Lone Star State. On family vacations as a child, I spent mornings waking up in a hotel room and heading downstairs to make a buttery waffle in a dramatically large Texas-shaped waffle maker. Even luckier hotel guests may take a dip in a Texas-shaped pool, like the lazy river on the sixth floor of the Marriot Marquis hotel in Houston. As Texans, we make, buy, and sell an assortment of quirky Texas-shaped items, and our obsession may link back to Texas’ history as its own country.
“The state developed a contagious and independent frame of mind that creates an overarching identity that people want a piece of,” says Stephen Harrigan, author of Big Wonderful Thing, a history of Texas.
That identity, often strengthened by a childhood spent in the state, increases the appreciation of collecting Texas-shaped products. “There’s a pride that’s not the same in other states. We all care for our homes and states, but it’s different in Texas,” says Cruz.
Cruz tells me how once, on a ski lift out-of-state, she noticed someone wearing a shirt with a squiggly square design and asked what the design was. They got offended and said, “Arizona.” “I don’t think you’ve ever had someone not recognize the shape of Texas in any capacity,” Cruz says.
The shape of Texas became increasingly important in the late 1800s when the population was becoming more mobile, says Richard Francaviglia, a historian, geographer, and associated scholar at Willamette University. “People started integrating the shape of Texas more in their travel experiences,” he says.
With the growing popularity of maps in the early 1900s, many people were using pocket maps to become more familiar with their surroundings. Growing up in the 1950s, Francaviglia says he remembers driving across Texarkana into Texas and seeing the majestic wide open spaces all around him. “It was this expansive feeling that affected my perception of Texas,” he says.
It’s no wonder why we want to take a piece of Texas with us everywhere we go. Whether you’re chopping on a Texas-shaped cutting board, placing a Texas-shaped magnet on a fridge, or drinking a cup of joe out of El Paso or Brownsville in a coffee mug, Texas will always be “a very intoxicating place,” according to Harrigan.